An anti-encourachment drive in Kerala's Munnar has targeted illegal occuption of land.
Kerala's Munnar, an ecological hotspot in the Western Ghats, has also made a name for itself as a haven for illegal construction activities over the years. But a recent anti-encroachment drive in the hill town led by a young 30-year-old sub collector has alarmed the land mafia and also sparked a flutter in political circles.
After Devikulam Sub Collector V Sriram issued notices to over 100 illegal resorts, evictions have begun despite protests and threats even by local political leaders.
"It is the truth that there are many illegal encroachers and government will take strict action. But there are many environmental concerns and we don't even want locals to be unnecessarily inconvenienced. We will have discussions with all to have them on-board," Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters reacting to the eviction drive.
According to sources, the issues has divided sections of the ruling LDF, with some questioning the brazenness of the evictions.
The anti-encroachment drive, which involved a cross being uprooted and being destroyed, particularly even received sharp criticism from the Chief Minister himself.
But for now the government has backed the evictions saying it will also focus on ensuring legal land title deeds to genuine families, affected by the evictions. Located 1,800 metres above sea level on the Western Ghats, Munnar has around 3,000 species of flora and fauna.
"There are three kinds of serious encroachments in Munnar. One is government land having illegal status of forest. Secondly, creating forged documents in the name of title deeds and thirdly, construction of massive projects for tourism. It's too late, but the government has to ensure stern action to save this ecological marvel," Advocate Harish Vasudevan, an environmentalist told NDTV.